Communicating with School / Health and Wellness / Ages 5-18

What Parents Need to Know About Bullying

What can you do if your child is experiencing bullying in school or online? Our Navigators share their advice.

There’s nothing worse for parents than feeling like we can’t keep our children safe. If your child is a target of bullying, you most likely feel not only worried and frustrated, but also powerless. Even though there are no easy fixes, our experienced Navigators have some recommendations for how to help.

What is bullying?

Not every conflict between students is considered bullying. How do you know if your child is experiencing bullying, or just regular playground conflict?


  • Is repeated behavior. Bullying is a pattern of targeted mistreatment. If your child is being repeatedly targeted by another child or children, bullying may be taking place.
  • Causes psychological or physical harm. A student does not need to be physically harmed for bullying to have occurred; bullying may cause emotional distress, anxiety, and depression. Bullying may also cause harm to a student’s property, too.
  • Can take place on or offline. Bullying doesn’t need to take place at school. It can also take place online, via social media, email, or over text message.
  • Creates a hostile environment at school. Bullying can cause a student to feel unsafe at school. It can also impede their learning experience.

What can I do if my child is being bullied?

If your child is experiencing bullying, it’s likely very distressing for both your child and your whole family. Here’s what our Navigators recommend:

  • Talk to your child. The first step is to understand what’s happening, how your child would like to receive support, and how you can work together to stop it. Make sure they know that being targeted is never their fault; no one deserves to be bullied.
  • Keep the conversation low-key. If your child is having a hard time sharing, try creating a relaxed opportunity to talk, like while you’re driving in the car together, tossing a ball around, or reading before bedtime.
  • Ask questions. Is there history between you? Have there been past conflicts? Has this happened before? Are you worried it will happen again? What will make you feel safer? Can I reach out to the school/teacher to talk to them about it?
  • Document what’s happening to your child. If your child is being bullied in school, keep written notes of what happened and when. Take photos of any physical harm caused to your child or their property. If bullying is taking place online, don’t engage with the bully at all: instead, immediately block them on any social media channels, and keep records of all bullying incidents. Make sure to keep screenshots of any posts or messages with dates and times, as well as any emails or texts your child has received. Finally, avoid inadvertently making the problem worse by sharing posts where someone is being bullied.
  • Notify the school. Share your concerns in writing, along with the evidence you’ve collected, with your child’s teacher, assistant principal, and principal. Be sure to include:
    • Information about what happened
    • Dates
    • Everyone involved
    • Your child’s account of events
    • Any communication you’ve already had with professionals (teachers, administrators, etc.) and their responses
    • Any documentation or evidence that has been collected (such as screenshots, notes, etc.)

Here’s a sample letter you can adapt and use to contact your child’s school.

But wait, what if my child is doing the bullying?

First of all, don’t panic. Everyone makes mistakes, and your child can learn from this and change their behavior. First, it’s important to understand their perspective—what were they feeling and thinking at the time? Is there something else going on at school or at home that is making them feel unsettled, upset, or angry? Ask them to consider the other child’s feelings, and work together to figure out how to make things right. Finally, make a plan for how they could make better choices next time. For more support on this topic, check out this resource from the Child Mind Institute.

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